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Even if you haven't tasted it, you have most likely seen Con and Stavroula Panaretos' fruit in supermarkets.
Along with their son, Ross, the family grow table grapes on their five properties, which cover 93.5 acres in the Mildura and Red Cliffs area in Victoria.
For the past five years the C&S Panaretos family business, which also exports under the name of Pana Farms, has been using a Westpac Farm Management Deposit (FMD) to reduce their taxable income and put money away for tighter seasons when their yield isn't as fruitful. And it can be managed online, without having to step foot off the front verandah.
A FMD allows eligible primary producers to set aside pre-tax income in a fixed term savings account which they can draw upon in the future, helping them manage their financial risk and meet their business costs in low-income years by building up cash reserves.
According to Con, the FMD has provided peace of mind for the family, ensuring there will always be cash flow if they hit troubled times.
"When you're working on the land you need to have a plan B. Our bank manager suggested it to us and I thought it was a good idea. You could say that having a Farm Management Deposit is like having insurance coverage for when times aren't going so well, and with the added advantages of tax benefits and a safety net of cash for a rainy day," said Con.
As there is only one grape-growing season per year, the family has only one opportunity for annual income, with the biggest threat to that income being the weather. At different stages of the vine's growth cycle frost, excess heat and rain can impact the grapes and quickly spell the end of a season for a grower.
In November 2016, a large hailstorm destroyed one of the family's properties, with no grapes and no income from that farm available for two years. Luckily, the family had diversified and invested in four other sites in the region, in case of these major weather events. If the storm had damaged more properties, the FMD would have helped take some financial pressure off the business.
Stavroula says it's situations such as these where having the Westpac FMD has helped them plan the rest of the year and helped protect their business and livelihood.
"Where we've run short of funds before our season, we've been able to access our FMD funds to bridge the gap. We've then put money back into it again before the end of the financial year, so it's working really well for us," said Stavroula.
"It has also helped reduce our taxable income, especially during a year when we have done well in terms of sales and returns. It definitely provides peace of mind knowing your money is there when you need it and it certainly helps with cash flow," added Con.
Eight-seven per cent of Westpac customers have been with the bank for more than a decade, the Panaretoses themselves having banked with Westpac for the past 39 years, with Stavroula following her parents to become a second-generation Westpac customer.
Con said he appreciates that Westpac's bankers have such extensive knowledge of the agriculture industry and that even after decades with the bank, the high level of service has never changed - they are there through thick and thin. So, for anyone thinking about taking out a FMD, it's something he recommends.
"Everyone's situation is different," he said. "But a FMD made sense for us - we saw our business was subject to risk and we had some spare funds to set aside. Westpac has been great to us and we're happy with our decision."
Take control of your pre-tax income to help balance the ups and downs of farm life with the help of Canstar's 2021 Bank of the Year for Agribusiness. To find out more, visit www.westpac.com.au/business-banking/savings-accounts/agri-farm-management-deposit/. To open a new FMD, you can request a call back from an Agribusiness banker in your area. Existing Westpac customers can open and renew a FMD online.
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